Bike Trail Etiquette

April 20, 2010 at 1:20pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Now that more Lincolnites are venturing onto the City’s excellent system of bike trails as the weather warms, it’s a good time to think about the etiquette that helps make the trail a nice place to be. Some starters:

  • Keep to the right. Some bike trails have a dotted line down the middle, some don’t. Either way, keep as far to the right as practical.
  • Don’t clog the trail. It’s great that your clan wants to work out together. Just do it without creating congestion. Again, stay to the right.
  • Don’t startle people. If you’re on a bike, use a bell, horn, or your voice to alert people that you’re coming up from behind. If you’re running, use your voice. “On your left” is a common and acceptable warning. Be sure to give the alert early enough that the person you’re passing can react to it. It doesn’t do any good to give an alert as you’re passing somebody. In fact, that can be more startling than not giving an alert at all.
  • Respect the trails’ many uses. Trails are used for transportation, leisure, and exercise. Know what type of user you are, know the types of users around you, and work to understand how you will interact with each other.
  • Don’t litter. I mean seriously, people. It’s 2010. Who the hell still litters? Throw your trash away.
  • Pick up your poop. Again, it’s 2010. Like it or not, as a dog walker you have a responsibility to clean up their poo. Come prepared and do your job. These days it’s far more embarrassing to not pick up after your dog than it is to take 6 seconds and scoop the poop. Just do it.
  • Be alert. So you want to listen to tunes while you use the trail? Fine. But don’t disappear into your own little rock fantasy. You have an obligation to be alert to what’s going on around you. Don’t put yourself or others in danger by not paying attention.
  • Teach your kids to respect the trails. I love seeing kids on the trails, but I hate the terror of cruising along on my bike only to have Junior veer into my path so he can inspect the spider that just crawled by. Bike trails aren’t like the sidewalk in front of your house. Kids are smart enough to understand that. Teach them.
  • Smile and wave. Why not?

Did I miss anything?

Two recent events spurred this post. The first occurred a couple weeks ago. I was jogging on the Rock Island Trail when I came upon a woman and two young men picking up trash along the side of the trail. On a whim I said “Thank you!” as I jogged past. Their faces lit up, and I got an unexpected burst of energy from the good vibes. The second event occurred just today. I started to walk after a burst of hard running. A man walking nearby started up a conversation. We didn’t talk about anything deep, but again, that two minute chat was enough to put smiles on both our faces and give our mornings a boost.

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The Comments

dogwalker April 20, 2010 at 2:15pm

I always yell “thank you!” to cyclists that alert us to their presence. My dogs are well-behaved, but the extra warning helps to make sure they don’t do anything crazy like dart to the left after a squirrel.

Nikkidemas April 20, 2010 at 2:25pm

Generally, people are extremely polite on the trails, but I have a few suggestions for your list:

- Control your dog & keep Rover on a short leash when people are passing you (I’m always afraid of getting clotheslined on my bike)

- I always appreciate when I get a wave or nod from a walker to acknowledge that they heard my “On your left”

- Trim your tree high enough.  This applies to sidewalks, not really trails.  But cyclists are taller on a bike than walkers - and it’s not fun to have to duck or get whipped in the face by a low-hanging tree.

- Keep your sidewalk clear, and don’t park your car across it.

trail user April 20, 2010 at 2:36pm

Dog-owners - Keep dogs on your right.  You may know that your dog is well behaved but the rest of us don’t!

Speedsters - Keep your speed down.  If you want to ride fast - go on the streets.  The trails are for recreational use with lots of kids learning how to ride bikes.  Or, at least slow up as you approach others so you don’t do a fly-by at 20 mph.

Group walkers - Be mindful that you aren’t on a sidewalk but an active trail.  Don’t walk 3 abreast and feel that you own the whole path.

Cyclists - wear helmets!

Moses April 20, 2010 at 2:51pm

Bicycles do not belong on the sidewalk.  They belong in the street with other vehicles.

beerorkid April 20, 2010 at 4:13pm

In Wilderness park use a bell before going around blind corners.  And take the earphones out so you can hear a bell.  Folks tear through there and we have seen some severe injuries these past couple years from head on collisions.

Would be great if we could make a one direction loop out there.

Katie G April 20, 2010 at 5:29pm

Ditto on the slow down - if you are good enough to be going THAT fast, you are good enough to be on the road to do it. These are multi-use trails, not race tracks.

Bikers - leave enough room when you pass - when kids are learning to bike they wobble, and whizzing by with an inch only startles and increases wobbling/falling.  Likewise with dogs - when you go that close to a dog, you will startle it and then the owner has much less control over which direction it jumps.

In Wilderness, bikers stay off the horse trails.  Bikes coming out of nowhere scare horses.  Horses weigh between 1000-1500 lbs and are unpredictable when frightened.  Someone is most likely going to get hurt.

two-wheeler and motorist April 20, 2010 at 5:30pm

Respect stop signs at road crossings.

Just because there are no bicycle cops hiding in the bushes waiting to give you a ticket doesn’t mean that you can simply blow through stop signs on the trail.

Use appropriate lights when traveling in low-light conditions even if you are just sticking to the trails.

Wisco April 20, 2010 at 6:18pm


Peter April 20, 2010 at 7:46pm

Walkers, runners, rollerbladers, bikers, and everyone else:

If you’re wearing your IPod and have the volume up loud enough for me to hear and you move in front of me as I am passing because you didn’t hear me shout “On Your Left”, you can expect an elbow or fist to the most easily reached part of your body in an effort to protect mine.

Mr. Wilson April 20, 2010 at 7:49pm

Why would you slug somebody for the simple offense of not hearing you? What exactly are you protecting yourself from?

Mr. Wilson April 20, 2010 at 7:51pm

I’m an idiot. I missed “...and you move in front of me…”.

Still, don’t let self-defense turn into violence.

meatball April 20, 2010 at 8:14pm

Same goes for group bikers. I’ve been forced off the path more than once.

Matthew Platte April 20, 2010 at 11:25pm

Wisco says, “It

Nikkidemas April 21, 2010 at 12:28am

In any event, the folks I meet on the trails & around town are generally very courteous and friendly.  I can’t complain.  Mr. W - I love the 2 encounters that you mentioned.  That kind of stuff seems to be the norm, and it’s another reason I love Lincoln!

Wisco April 21, 2010 at 1:54am

I understand the perception that your safer riding tucked away on the sidewalk but studies into this just don

beerorkid April 21, 2010 at 4:02am

The road is soooo much safer.  Bikes are traffic and if the rider is confident enough and respectful, they are traffic that can easily be observed and dealt with as any other type of traffic.  You can also pass bikes with ease legally. As a bike commuter year round, not on a single bit of city owned multi use trail, I know I am safer in the road.

I do not take busy streets while going places unless there is no choice, and that is very rare.  The city also has wide side streets that are bike routes.  The bike lanes downtown are great and very misunderstood. 

Sidewalks scare the carp out of me.  The uneven surface, blind spots, animals, children, vehicles, vicinity to mailboxes and landscaping make it much less pleasurable than a nice clean street where I am seen and in better control of my actions and awareness of my surroundings.

As with many things some folk do not like what does not involve them or slightly inconveniences their lives for a split fraction of the day.  It all comes down to common decency whether you are on a city trail or on a road.  Treat each other with respect and follow the laws so everything works like it should between civilized folk.

  I ring my bell and say on your left.  I also wave after passing and get great replies.  One thing I noticed about folks who go on bike rides, jogs, or walks just for fun and to be fit, they are generally happy.  Nice to see smiling faces out enjoying the day.  I confess I tear down the Mopac late in the eve after a trip back from Eagle, but always chill when I come up on people.

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